From Empirics to Empiricists

Intellectual History Review 24 (4):517-538 (2014)
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Although the notion of empiricism looms large in many histories of early modern philosophy, its origins are not well understood. This paper aims to shed light on them. It examines the notions of empirical philosopher, physician, and politician that are employed in a range of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century texts, alongside related notions (e.g. "experimental philosophy") and methodological stances. It concludes that the notion of empiricism used in many histories of early modern thought does not have pre-Kantian origins. It first appeared and became widely used in late eighteenth-century Germany, in the course of the early debates on Kant's Critical philosophy.
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